New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologized Thursday for “failing to understand the true nature” of the problem that has landed him in so much political trouble — a deliberately arranged traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge for reasons of political retribution.
“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in it’s planning or execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here,” he said at a news conference.
Christie said he was “embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” singling out two of them by name.
“I was being led to believe by folks around me that there was no basis to this” he said. “But I was wrong.” He used the word “heartbroken” several times.
Christie said he’s fired his top aide Bridget Kelly “because she lied to me.” He also said he’s ended the political career of Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager, telling him to remove his name from consideration as state Republican Party Chairman and to step down from his work with the Republican Governors’ Association.
Christie said he continues to interview his staff to find out if there’s anything else he should know.
He said he will go to Fort Lee, N.J., today to apologize in person to the Democratic mayor of that town, which is situated at the New Jersey end of the bridge. The apparent reason for the early-September traffic jam — which lasted three days — was the refusal of the town’s Democratic mayor to support Christie’s re-election.
In response to a question about his reputation as a bully, Christie said, he isn’t one: “Politics ain’t bean-bag, okay, and everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. On the other hand, that’s very very different from saying that you know, someone’s a bully.
“I have very heated discussions and arugments with people in my own party and on the other side of the aisle. I feel passionately about issues and I do not hide my emotions from people. I am not a focus-group-tested blow-dried candidate — or governor.”
Christie said until yesterday, when an email trail emerged, “I was told this was a traffic study.” He said “there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday.”
Even though he didn’t know about it, he admitted, “It’s my responsibility.”
“I don’t know what makes a legitimate traffic study,” Christie said in response to another question.
He also said he never asked for the political support of Fort Lee’s mayor, so reports that the traffic jam was payback were not credible to him. He said that’s why he could go out and joke about it — until yesterday.
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